Celebrating Muslim Women

March 29, 2018

Amal Al-Sibai

Saudi Gazette

Since the dawn of Islam, women were just as influential in spreading the light of Islam as men. Names like Khadijah, Aisha, Umm Salamah, Fatimah bint Muhammad, and centuries later, Nafisa bin Al-Hasan, Fatima Al-Fihri, and many more will always be recognized as prominent female scholars.

Although prophecy is restricted only to men and there are no female prophets, the Holy Qur’an does mention pious, righteous women whom Allah has singled out as faithful worshipers and role models for all.

“And We sent not before you [as messengers] except men to whom We revealed from among the people of cities.” (Holy Qur’an 12:109)

Maryam, the mother of Prophet Jesus was mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, and a chapter in the Qur’an is named after her. The mother of Prophet Musa was mentioned in the Qur’an for her patience and trust in Allah, as well as Prophet Musa’s sister.

Asiya, the queen, was married to the most powerful man of his time, Pharoah and she had been accustomed to a life of luxury, but when she heard the truth from Prophet Musa, she believed in him and she believed in Allah. She was not influenced by the wickedness of her husband

“And Allah presents an example of those who believed: the wife of Pharaoh, when she said, ‘My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise and save me from Pharaoh and his deeds and save me from the wrongdoing people.’” (Holy Qur’an 66:11)

Aisha, the wife of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a true student of knowledge. She constantly asked the Prophet questions so she could learn and then teach others. She was a scholar in explaining the meanings of the Qur’an, Hadith, and in jurisprudence. She narrated 2,210 Hadith and held classes in her house to teach Hadith. The companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in Madinah said that they knew none who had more knowledge of what is forbidden and what is permissible in Islam than Aisha.

What if someone were to say to you, “Those women were special and we can never be like them,”?

You should reply, “That is not true. Inspirational, amazing female leaders and scholars in Islam are not only a thing of the past.”

Take for example, the group of women who founded Rabata, an organization and educational academy dedicated to building spiritual ties between women, the spiritual upbringing of women by women, and the establishment of the female voice in scholarship. Rabata promotes positive cultural change through creative educational experiences.

Through Rabata, I have been reading about dozens of women who are not only scholars in Islamic knowledge, but who are also historians, doctors, writers, computer programmers, and educators.

With so many blooming flowers to pick from a diverse and beautiful field, I have selected only a couple of these women to show our readers that there are many women role models that we, as young Muslim women, can aspire to be like.

Najiyah Maxfield is from Kansas, and she is the award-winning author of many articles, poems, and short stories. She has recently published a young adult novel, Sophia’s Journal. Najiyah taught secondary level English and history in the States for 12 years and university level English in Syria for two years. She was the editor of Discover: The Magazine for Curious Muslim Kids and she is now the Editorial Director of Daybreak Press, Rabata’s non-profit publishing company.

Dr. Rania Awaad is a practicing psychiatrist at the Stanford University School of Medicine. She is also a researcher and the Director of the Stanford Muslims and Mental Health Lab where she mentors and oversees research focused on Muslim mental health. She has been the recipient of several awards and grants for her work.

Dr. Awaad also has an interest in refugee mental health and has traveled to Amman, Jordan multiple times. She has worked on developing and presenting a “train the trainers” curriculum to aid workers and therapists in Amman working with Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

Prior to studying medicine, Dr. Awaad pursued classical Islamic Studies in Damascus, Syria and holds certification (Ijaza) in Qur’an, Islamic Law and other branches of the Islamic Sciences. She is a Professor of Islamic Law at Zaytuna College, an American Muslim Liberal Arts College in Berkeley, CA. In addition, she serves as the Director of The Rahmah Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating Muslim women and girls

Anna-Maria Ramzy has learned Arabic from scratch as a non-native speaker. She studied the language at the University of Oxford, where she gained a First Class in her Arabic degree. Her undergraduate studies led her to Syria, where she met Tamara Gray, intensified her studies in Arabic, and embarked upon the journey to gain her ijaza in tajwīd.

Since returning to England, Anna-Maria has focused on Arabic teaching and curriculum development, undertaking her PhD in Education at Oxford focusing on students of Arabic, determined to make the language easy and accessible to all. Her firm belief is that Allah would not have revealed His words in a language some cannot learn.

Rukayat Yakub is the founder of Light Legacy Books, a children’s publishing house dedicated to telling the stories of little-known heroes from across the globe. She is a certified Montessori elementary teacher and has studied Arabic and traditional Islamic sciences. She is passionately leading two research projects: ‘Women of Light,’ a look at the literary and educational legacy of Nana Asma’u and ‘Empowered by Revelation’ which highlights the impact Islam has made on the lives of women through the ages. Her mission is revealing the necessity for telling stories from history.

And these are only a few examples among dozens and dozens of women who work tirelessly to educate others and spread the knowledge of Islam and serve their communities. Nothing should hold us back from becoming like one of these women.

March 29, 2018
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